Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Best if: You’re a normal human who likes good Mexican food and cheap drinks.
It must be tough to run a Mexican restaurant in D.C. You have west coast transplants who refuse to believe any local places could touch their favorite Cali taco truck and you have east coast transplants who don’t actually know anything about Mexican food. It’s a frustrating mixture, but there is one thing we can all get behind.
And that’s cheap food.
Mezcalero has cheap food. In a city where finding cheap food can mean resorting to jumbo slice. In a city where paying over $12 for a cocktail is normal.
And it’s not only cheap, it’s good.
I know some of you are going to disagree. Much like BBQ, people get contentious about their Mexican food, but stop posturing for a second. Stop pretending you know what you’re talking about. Just head on over to Columbia Heights (we realize it’s not Columbia Heights to some people but it’s too far west for Park View, too far northeast for Mount Pleasant and too far south for 16th Street Heights so if you have a better idea for what neighborhood this is in, let us know) and order a goddamn taco. Stop thinking. And then you can get back to me.
The beauty of Mezcalero is that you’re not sacrificing anything. Chef Alfredo Solis (of El Sol) has crafted a menu that encompasses a wide variety of Mexican dishes. There is deliciously acidic and wildly refreshing ceviche, meaty gorditas, and crispy flautas. There are burritos and quesadillas and huaraches and enchiladas and moles and plenty of tacos. Usually I prefer smaller menus, they make it easy to see what the chef is passionate about, but I don’t mind the large menu at Mezcalero. Chef Solis is just trying to expand what we think of when we think of Mexican food. He’s trying to teach us something.
The bar tells a similar story Arturo Zaloga (who you may know from Marvin, The Brixton, & El Rey) is keeping more than 50 different mezcals behind the bar. Which is amazing if you’re a mezcal fan, but it’s not a problem if you hate mezcal either. Zaloga’s cocktails are incredibly balanced, making for a delightful and easy drinking experience. They also have tequila and rum on hand if you really can’t stand the thought of mezcal, but I have a feeling these drinks will be able to win over even the most astringent mezcal hater.
Did I mention that everything is made in house? All the tortillas, all the sauces, all the breads. Everything on your plate has been constructed by Solis and his team. There’s genuine heart and genuine passion put into every meal at Mezcalero.
And nothing is over $15. Most things aren’t even over $13. The cocktails range from $8 to $10 and most of the beers are $5.
Seldom do I go into a restaurant that feels like it has everything. Good decor. Good food. Good drinks. Good prices.
Mezcalero is one of those places.
Mezcalero is at 3714 14th St. NW and opens today, January 13. They are open from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. They close at 11 p.m. on Sunday.